This Art Club Has a Problem!
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 8 of
This Art Club Has a Problem! ?
That's one question answered! Last week, I wondered why there were so many rabbits in the background of This Art Club has a Problem, and this week Maria was obliging enough to refer to Usami as “Usa,” which is the same sound (not sure about characters) as the word for rabbit, “usagi.” Presumably, this is why she wears a rabbit hair clip and there are posters of bunnies everywhere. So thanks, Maria!
Speaking of Maria, she really doesn't appear to be playing much of a role in this show. Aside from making Usami jealous, she almost feels like a throwaway character. Maria seems to pop up whenever Usami needs a little motivation to act on her Uchimaki crush or when the show's in danger of stagnating because the lovebirds aren't interacting. I suppose the better term for Maria would be a “catalyst character,” and while she is very useful in that regard, it doesn't make her feel like a person so much as a plot device. Colette at least has the role of “wacky blonde character” to fuel her actions, and unlike Maria, her acts have ongoing repercussions for the larger story. The club president, on the other hand, makes his role work by virtue of his absence, which is also something we can say for Yumeko-sensei – their lack of supervision makes the story possible, with the added bonus of the club president's teasing that furthers the development of Usami and Uchimaki's relationship. Maria, on the other hand, is mostly around to remind us that Uchimaki's an otaku and Usami gets jealous.
This week, she plays that role in the second segment of the episode. In part one, Usami and Uchimaki discover that their clubroom has a storage room, and they get locked in while exploring it for a new plaster bust. They also realize that it's full of the possessions of former art club members, including old manga. In part two, Uchimaki brings Maria to see the manga, and when Usami gets jealous of their time together, they discover an old treasure map left by previous generations of the club. The three then set out to find the buried cache, only to discover, in a move straight out of D-Frag, that it's dirty magazines. (Or at least girly ones.) Maria's basically there to make sure that Usami goes on the adventure; the actual treasure looks like it will come back to haunt Uchimaki and Usami next week, as they're the only two who actually see it. (Maria's talking to her trowel at the time.)
As for our awkward couple, getting locked into the storage room gets about as weird as you can imagine. What's more interesting than Usami freaking out or building herself castles with no foundations is how comfortable Uchimaki is with her now. As we saw when he had her climb on his shoulders a few weeks ago, he has reached the point where he's seeing her as a person rather than as a 3D girl, which is more progress than it sounds like, since he wouldn't even shake her hand in episode one. The two seem to have a genuine friendship at this point, with Uchimaki going through periods of cluelessness regarding Usami's crush. It feels fairly deliberate on his part, like a way of avoiding something he's not comfortable with, although he may simply be that obtuse. While Usami really would like for him to understand her feelings, she's also not willing to come out and say anything. This is partly because she's embarrassed, but it would also make sense if she was worried about losing the friendship they've built if he does recognize her crush. This makes for an interesting dynamic that can be used for both pathos and comedy, mostly the latter considering this show's genre. The best gag this week comes when Usami begins daydreaming about it getting cold while they're trapped in the storeroom; it feels like less-than-stellar fanfiction.
This Art Club has a Problem may not always know how to handle its side characters, but it continues to do a good enough job with its leads. Usami and Uchimaki's relationship is the heart of this story, and even if it never progresses beyond “awkward middle school crush,” it's a fun depiction of that stage. We'll have to see how this week's treasure plays into that next time.
This Art Club Has a Problem! is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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